#57 1957 Argentine Grand Prix

2021-04-23 12:32

Array() no author 82025

#1957, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero, Translated by Alessia Borelli, Luca Saitta,

#57 1957 Argentine Grand Prix

With the coming of the European drivers, the Temporada Argentina enter its crucial stage and Sunday, January 13th, 1957, with the attendance of all th


With the coming of the European drivers, the Temporada Argentina enter its crucial stage and Sunday, January 13th, 1957, with the attendance of all the best-known aces, the Buenos Aires circuit will start the motorsport season with the Grand Prix of the Argentine Republic, the first race of the constructors' World Championship. It is known as the passage of Fangio from Ferrari to Maserati, which is not known whether it will be temporary or seasonal, creating a new and interesting situation. Fangio left Ferrari, with which he won the fourth world title in 1956, and went to Maserati, where he will find one of his most dangerous rivals as his teammate, the British driver Stirling Moss. Ferrari responds in some way launching the young Collins, Perdisa, Castellotti, Musso, Hawthorn, Von Trips, and De Portago, who will defend Maranello’s Scuderia from Fangio, Moss and Behra. But mostly, following the departure of Nello Ugolini from Ferrari, with Maserati as a destination, occurred the previous year, Enzo Ferrari asks Mino Amorotti to take his place. Amorotti, a wealthy landowner, has been working at Ferrari since 1953 for passion: he is in fact unpaid, and the only thing he asks to the Modena constructor is travel refund.


"I am a wealthy farmer, I don’t need money, I do it for passion".


Before leaving for Temporada Argentina, he confesses to Ferrari:


"Enzo, if you want me to continue to cooperate in this area, and I gladly do, you have to give me a sports director to deal with the organizing Automobile Clubs and the drivers. Because I don't want to go and talk about money and bureaucratic issues, I want to be with the cars and the drivers. The two things I don't know how to do. Give me one person, give me whoever you want".


Ferrari replies:


"I give you Tavoni. He's the secretary, he already knows everything, and then it's confidential".


After that, Ferrari calls Tavoni, and asks him if he has a passport. Tavoni replies in the negative, so Ferrari exclaims:


"Give me three photos, then you will send the documents".


Taking Tavoni's place as secretary will be Valerio Stradi, a young man that started working at Ferrari at 15 years old, on April 26th, 1949. Stradi will remain Ferrari’s secretary until his passing, and will end his career at Ferrari in 1990. Tavoni instead, will skip the Temporada Argentina, but will follow the team on track starting from the 12 hours of Sebring. Tuesday, January 8th, 1957, at the European drivers' arrival, a big crowd of fans and technicians find themselves waiting for Alitalia's aircraft on which conductors and managers are transported. The group, landed at perfect time, includes the Italians Luigi Musso, Eugenio Castellotti and Cesare Perdisa, the Englishman Mike Hawthorn, the Spanish Marquis Alfonso De Portago, the technical director Eraldo Sculati, engineer Girolamo Amorotti, and five Ferrari’s mechanics. Maserati’s delegation is, instead, made of the Frenchman Jean Behra, the Swede Joakim Bonnier, the technical director Nello Ugolini, and five mechanics. On the same plane also travel the American driver Harry Schell, who lives in Paris, the Italian Giorgio Scarlatti, and the director Guglielmo Dei from Scuderia Centro Sud, with two mechanics. To the press, the drivers confessed to be anxious to see the new route for the 1000 kilometres, which this year will take place on January 20th, on the city's northern waterfront circuit. On the contrary, most of the drivers had already been to Argentina and know well the modern race track of Buenos Aires suburbs, where the Grand Prix will take place. Fangio, long returned to the homeland, already visited the two tracks that, after all, are familiar to him.


Eventually, it is confirmed that González will drive for Ferrari: the Argentine driver bought himself a Formula 1 car, but since it is still not ready, the Modena team has made available for the driver one of the cars sent to South America for the Temporada. Stirling Moss will drive for Maserati, but an engagement of the young British driver from the Vanwall, missing from the Temporada but very set on fully realising the chances shown in 1956, seems all but unlikely. Jean Behra, Harry Schell and Carlos Menditeguy complete Maserati’s team for the Argentine Grand Prix, while the Swede Bonnier will enter the scene in the 1000 Kilometres. They are two big teams comprising almost all of the greatest drivers in the world, but with the danger of rekindling rivalries that the winter lull certainly has not extinguished. Wednesday, January 9th 1957 Luigi Musso and Eugenio Castellotti, two of the Italian drivers who will take part in the Argentine Grand Prix, set, during the official practice at the close track, the two best timing of the day, and the third is set by Mike Hawthorn, all in the Maranello cars. The competitors' trials are held in scorching temperatures, a full thirty-nine degrees; it has not been this hot in Argentina for thirteen years. The weather is one of the reasons convincing the racers not to push too hard, with the risk of burning out their engines. In the morning - in all secrecy - Fangio also tests the six-cylinder Maserati, setting a time not far off the track record. With this first series of tests, the racing season resumes in style. As mentioned, the year will officially open with the Argentine Formula 1 Grand Prix, the first round of the 1957 World Drivers' Championship, continue on Sunday, January 20, with the 1000 Kilometres for sports cars, and conclude with the Buenos Aires Grand Prix, for free-formula racing cars. Of the three races on the calendar, the most interesting is the opening one, which reprises the great Ferrari-Maserati confrontation that ended last season at Monza with the victory of a trident car, but with an overall balance of superiority of Ferrari's mechanical means, which enabled Fangio to win his fourth world title. Incidentally, for Ferrari, the Argentine Grand Prix represents its 50th race in Formula 1 since the beginning of its glorious history. In the technical confrontation between the two eternally antagonist Modena brands, more than one reason for lively rivalry is thus grafted. 


A few more considerations need to be made to better specify the reason for so much uncertainty in predictions. In the past, the Temporada Argentina races have given rise to a chain of surprises, originating from both technical and human factors. First of all, the first race of the season is always an unknown, involving the success of the modifications made to the cars, due to uncertain tuning, and the poor training of the drivers. Finally, the climate factor: a sweltering, humid summer has begun in Buenos Aires, which, as happened in 1955, ends up negatively affecting the performance of the engines and the physical performance of the racers. It is therefore a race, the Argentine Grand Prix, that presents very particular conditions every year: difficult to frame into a reliable forecast, often also difficult to judge in its results, and yet all the more interesting. Sunday's race will be held on circuit number two of the Buenos Aires Municipal Racetrack, and according to regulations dating back to 1953, the Grand Prix will not be run over a fixed distance, but with the duration formula: three hours of racing. Since the track is relatively not very fast, rather low averages are obtained there: the overall record is held by the Fangio-Musso duo in a Ferrari, with a distance covered of just over 383 kilometres. After the withdrawal of Mercedes, and while waiting for the British cars Vanwall and B.R.M. to reappear, the Temporada is nonetheless always full of interesting elements, both because of the continuous evolution of the mechanical means and because of the presence in the two teams of almost all the world's best drivers. Maserati relies on the historic 250F, a car presented back in 1954 but developed over the years, demonstrating good competitiveness despite the Mercedes dominance of the previous years, while Ferrari presents the 801, a single-seater derived from the Lancia D50s inherited in mid-1955 after Ascari's passing. The Maserati 250F, also called the timeless car, made its track debut on Boxing Day 1953, and became an instant winner a few weeks later during the 1954 Argentine Grand Prix. Designed by Gioacchino Colombo, a former Ferrari man, it can be recognized by its front-mounted 2.493 cc straight-six engine, which over the years saw its power increase from 240 horsepower to 270 horsepower, reaching 8.000 rpm in 1957.


Ferrari, on the other hand, deliberates substantial changes to the Lancia-Ferrari D50, the single-seater inherited from the Turin-based racing stable in the summer of 1955. In the Ferrari 801, the characteristic side tanks disappear, replaced by a single tank behind the driver’s shoulders to aid weight distribution. The V-shaped eight-cylinder retains the right angle of the cylinder banks, but is now mounted in line with the axle, abandoning the 12° inclination of the car from which it is derived, increasing the dimensions of bore and stroke, and reaching a displacement of 2.493.2 cc and a power output of 275 horsepower at 8.200 rpm. The Scuderia Centro Sud, the only team not representing a car manufacturer entered in the challenge, plays the diplomacy card by bringing a Maserati for Bonnier and an old Ferrari 500 entrusted to the rookie De Tomaso, the man who later would found his own car company. The only privateer, in a Maserati 250F, is Luigi Piotti. Balance and uncertainty dominate during qualifying, thanks to the real protagonist of the session: the inconstant weather that causes carburetion problems, especially for the Maranello cars, keeping lap times close. It is sufficient to say that between the second qualifier, Fangio, and the seventh, Hawthorn, the gap is only of two seconds and two tenths. Making the difference is Stirling Moss, who gets the pole position in 1'42"6, distancing the reigning World Champion by one second and one tenth. For the Briton it is the first pole position start on Argentine soil. The first three positions are all in favour of Maserati, thanks to Moss, Fangio and Behra, followed by Eugenio Castellotti in a Ferrari. The second row is acquired by the Maranello cars, with Collins, Musso and Hawthorn. The Argentine Menditeguy and Schell in a Maserati follow in succession, while González and Perdisa win the internal challenge with fellow-rivals De Portago and Von Trips, being able to participate in the Grand Prix representing Ferrari. Closing out the grid were the two drivers from the Scuderia Centro Sud with De Tomaso's Ferrari ahead of Bonnier's Maserati, who replaced Italian Giorgio Scarlatti, who was the victim of an accident on the Buenos Aires circuit, while in last position would start the privateer Piotti. On Sunday, January 13, 1957, in clear, warm and dry weather, in front of a large crowd ready to cheer on the local favourites, providing a backdrop to the activity on the track, at 4:00 p.m. the Argentine flag is waved, giving the start to the fourteen participants in the Argentine Grand Prix. 


Moss has an excellent start but his joy lasts only a few hundred meters, as a throttle failure forces him into a long pit stop where he loses about ten minutes, the equivalent of eight laps. The first lap is very tight with Behra in the lead, closely followed by the Ferraris of Castellotti and Hawthorn, while Fangio is only fourth. On the third lap, the Ferrari is in the lead: Castellotti attacks and overtakes the Frenchman Behra, then attempts a breakaway but the plan does not come to fruition, and after six laps the Maserati driver regains the lead in the race. In the meantime, Collins, who started fifth, makes a tenacious comeback and climbs the standings to third place, putting himself in the wake of the leading duo. Fangio remains in fourth position, while Mike Hawthorn seems to be in more trouble, who, after a good initial phase, slowly slips to fifth place. On lap nine, Jean Behra took the lead again by overtaking Eugenio Castellotti, and at the end of lap ten he led by one second and six tenths over the Ferrari driver. On lap 13, Castellotti came back in for an unscheduled stop; Collins seized the opportunity and jumped into the lead, bringing the Ferraris back to set the pace. At this stage of the race, the standings saw Collins in the lead followed by Behra, Fangio and Hawthorn. Fifth and sixth places were filled by Italians Musso and Castellotti, both Ferrari standard bearers, while Moss, in last place, attempts a comeback as furious as it was impossible. At the end of lap 20, Ferrari is in the lead with Collins, who, however, is only a few metres ahead of two Maserati drivers, Behra and Fangio. The World Champion is conducting his traditional race of waiting to develop the attack at the propitious moment: this presents itself to him on lap twenty-six, when Collins is forced to stop in the pits because of mechanical problems with his Ferrari. Fangio, who was in second position, therefore leads the race. Meanwhile, a disgruntled Perdisa was called back to the pits and forced to entrust his single-seater to Collins, who restarted on lap thirty-four, but the cursed day for Ferrari was only just beginning. But it was a rather laborious affair to convince the young Italian driver to surrender his car to his teammate. The Ferrari factory signalmen tried in vain three times to stop Perdisa, but the young man continued the race. On the fourth attempt to induce him to stop in the pits, the Ferrari signalman gets so close to Perdisa's car that the driver runs over and breaks the flag, continuing his race. On the fifth invitation Perdisa finally stops, albeit reluctantly, and surrenders his car.


The clutch is the weak point of the Maranello cars, so the next lap Musso stops for the same mishap, while Hawthorn breaks the same component on the thirty-fifth lap. That leaves Castellotti to defend the Scuderia Ferrari in the top positions, while González and car number eighteen, first driven by Perdisa, then by Collins, are further behind and thus out of the points zone. From this point on, the race experienced a stalemate, with Fangio managing to maintain firm control of the race for most of the scheduled laps, although pressed by Behra. On lap forty-nine, another driver change occurs at Ferrari, after González gives up the wheel of his car to De Portago. Shortly thereafter, on lap sixty-five, Collins forfeits; Ferrari 801 number eighteen is taken over not by Cesare Perdisa, but by Von Trips, who will tackle the final third of the stage. Although there are no major shocks, the top positions experience another jolt with the last official retirement from the Grand Prix. Bad luck strikes again a Ferrari, in particular the one now driven by Eugenio Castellotti, victim of a frightening accident during the seventy-fifth lap, just when he seems to be able to reach and attack Behra's second place: on the straight opposite to the finish line, the left rear wheel detaches and the car slams against a wire protection, but fortunately there are no consequences for the Italian racer. Despite the rather violent collision, Castellotti sustains no injuries, and can therefore return to the pits to reassure his teammates and officials. 


At the same time, another protagonist of the weekend, with a burst of pride, signs the fastest lap, which is worth a point in the standings: Stirling Moss, still very delayed but very fast, laps in 1'44"7, at an average speed of 134.510 km/h. In the following laps, Fangio, tailed by Behra, the Argentine Menditeguy and the American Schell, all in Maseratis, are the prelude to a triumph for the House of the Trident. Fifth is Ferrari number twenty driven by De Portago, having inherited it from Gonzalez, and from sixth place Von Trips, Bonnier, Moss, De Tomaso and Piotti follow, respectively. Nothing more happens except that in the lead, only for a couple of laps, he overtakes Behra, but the Argentinean outfielder immediately regains the first position and crosses the finish line first. After a little more than three hours, Fangio seizes his twenty-first career victory, second is Behra, delayed by about eighteen seconds, while third is another local driver, Carlos Menditeguy: for him it is the first and only podium in his career. Schell, fourth, completes the celebrations for the Modena team, while De Portago and González share equally the two points of fifth place. Moss earns the rainbow point thanks to the fastest lap. The first consequence of Juan Manuel Fangio's beautiful victory in the Argentine Grand Prix is the signing of the contract that will bind the World Champion to Maserati for the entire season. The ever-popular Fangio, as he stepped out of the car, confided to his sporting director, Nello Ugolini, who happily embraced him: 


"It's a magnificent car, perfect".


In fact, Scuderia Maserati's balance sheet in this first race of the season cannot be more satisfactory: Maserati takes the first four places in the standings, eight cars reach the finish line out of eight starts, and sets a new distance and lap record, showing great efficiency and perfect mechanical preparation. And it should be noted that the cars driven by Harry Schell, Bonnier, De Tomaso and Piotti are of the not-so-new type, and belong to the Scuderia Centro-Sud and Madunina. In short, the indications of the official tests are confirmed by the course of the race, but it should not be believed that it was an easy victory for the men of Maserati: as long as they remained immune from transmission mishaps, the Ferraris fought very well, and indeed Castellotti first and Collins later managed to command the race for long stretches. The general impression among engineers is that there will be very balanced racing this year, precisely because Maserati seems to have achieved more progress during the winter rest than the rival brand, thus closing the slight disadvantage revealed last season. That is as far as the Formula 1 cars are concerned, for which there will be the first rematch race, again in Buenos Aires, a fortnight later. Fangio made a race of great tactical shrewdness, limiting himself in the early stages to not losing contact with Behra, Castellotti and Collins, who were battling at the front. At the right moment, the Argentine took the lead and stayed there until the end, improving the race record. Excellent impressions were also made by Jean Behra, who finished the race just over eighteen seconds behind the winner, remaining incidentally the only one of the competitors not to be lapped by Fangio.


And the third-place finisher, Argentine Carlos Menditeguy, also reconfirmed the excellent chances he had already shown a year earlier on this very track, later interrupting due to a bad accident. Eugenio Castellotti was long enough inside the fight for first place, and not even when his Ferrari began to suffer clutch slippage did he give up. Then he ran a scary adventure on the seventy-fourth lap, when he lost his left front wheel, but managed to master the racing line of the car, which stopped off the road against a wire guard. Stirling Moss already on the first lap broke a throttle lever and stopped at length in the pits for repair, before bravely resuming the race, taking the satisfaction of setting the fastest lap in record time. Collins was overall the best of the Ferraristi, but was stopped early by the usual clutch failure. A euphoric evening will be experienced in the Maserati team while, by contrast, the Ferrari boys do not hide their demoralization, which, in vain, their sporting director Sculati tries to lift. But resolutions of revenge are already surfacing: the other two tests of the Temporada will see a fight at loggerheads between the men of one and the other team. And not only that, as Ferrari decides to replace Eraldo Sculati - guilty of not having called Ferrari from Argentina with promptness immediately after the conclusion of the first Grand Prix of the new season - with Romolo Tavoni, his personal secretary, who, of course, would continue in his new role in addition to his secretarial duties.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


Contact us


Create Website with | Free and Easy Website Builder